Saturday, January 27, 2007

Mt.Famy (really Mt.Romelo in Siniloan, not Famy), Laguna

Aling Esther is dead. She has been dead for over 2 years now so you cannot register with her anymore. Registration is done at the shack accross the river. There is a 20peso fee per head and what used to be a "donation" is now a mandatory fee. The registration shack GPS COORDINATES are N 14°27'17.82" E121°28'09.36" Altitude 33.8meters. Campsite GPS LOCATION is N 14°27' 15.9 by E121°29' 24.3 Altitude 237.8meters. Most of the materials on the net indicate to hikers favoring late evening or early morning hikes. That way one gets more time to enjoy the river at the campsite and have time visiting the various waterfalls up and down the river.

What hikers refer to as Mt.Famy is actually Mt.Romelo and its in Siniloan and not in Famy. We decided to go on a friday evening but most of us had to work late so we ended up leaving UP Diliman at about 10:30pm. We reached the parking area at about 2am and started our hike at 2:30am. Even at this late hour we came accross a group of guys making their way to the campsite as well. The path is very muddy! Some areas have knee-high mud so wear the right hiking shoes or you will be sorry.

CAMP:Besides being an easy climb, there are 4 or 5 sarisari stores at the campsite selling food and drinks. There were about 20 tents propped up ,/approx 100people, when we went but during the summer months this number goes into the thousands of people so be warned. I heard the numbers exceed 2000 campers and so barangay tanods and police camp up here as well to keep the peace. Even with just this hundred or so campers we were not able to sleep because a group was singing and talking loudly the whole night so it felt like we were beside the market. If you want peace and quiet then you should establish camp well away from the stores and tables.

STORES:Canned goods, liquor, softdrink and bottled water prices are sold at almost 200% of the original price. (1.5liter coke is 50pesos, eggs are 7.50 each ) Most of the campers bring raw or half cooked meats and cooking utensils. That way there is less garbage generated. Remember that what you bring up, you MUST bring down with you.
(photo right: sari sari store, above: camp site with sari sari stores at the far end taken by FrancisAtendido on Panasonic FZ-20, Jan.20, 2007)

RIVER:There is little algae blooming on the rocks at the river beside the campsite. This is the top of buruwisan falls. The bottom of the falls, however, is a different story. Sobrang lumot sa mga bato. I guess the water is not as clean as it used to be. Buruwisan falls and Lansones falls are located downstream while BatyaBatya falls and Sampaloc falls lies upstream.

COOKING: Humidity is very high and it frequently rains. Thus its hard to gather dry wood. You'd best bring a portable burner or some charcoal to cook your food.

PEOPLE: Campers are very friendly. I think this is one of the attractions of the climb. I really enjoyed striking up conversation with the campers. Of course one must avoid the rowdy ones but those are scarce.
(photo right: friendly campers, taken by AllanBarredo on NikonD50, above: buruwisan falls taken by FrancisAtendido on Panasonic FZ-20, Jan.20, 2007)

HORSES: For those too lazy to climb, horses can be rented at 200pesos for one way trip. Another 200 pesos when you are fetched for your trip home
(photo left:boy on horse atop buruwisan falls, taken by AllanBarredo on NikonD50, below: Laguna lake at 5pm taken by FrancisAtendido on Panasonic FZ-20, Jan.21, 2007)

To get to Mt.Romelo BY CAR:you have to drive through Antipolo and around Laguna Lake towards Famy. At the Famy intersection (landmark: CALTEX) turn left towards Infanta, Quezon. You will pass by 2 check points. About 2kilometers from the intersection you will see a sign for "BURUWISAN FALLS" going to the right, and downwards. At the bottom you must turn left and actually drive over that small stream of water. Don't worry, its shallow. Further up the stream is a cemented road, take that road and drive straight. You will eventually intersect a bigger river. There is a good parkingspace just in front of that river at your left. You have to go inside through this makeshift gate and the area is pretty wide. There is space enough for about 20 cars. Its a community establishment that provides seedlings for treeplanting and its run by a Mr.Rodel De Guzman (cell# 0910-687-2617) . Wake someone up so they know who's parking there. You can ask for a guide there too if you need one. They charge 200pesos/guide so just get one guide.
PUBLIC TRANSPO: take the LRT2 to Legarda Station, When you go down Legarda St., walk 30meters or so towards the flyover. (opposite the side of the Arellano school) Board the RAYMUND BUS going to (Siniloan) FAMY, INFANTA RD. INTERSECTION. Buses leave every hour, 24hrs/day (alternate aircon and non-aircon) and the fee is PhP 96 pesos for non-aircon and a few pesos higher for aircon. When you reach the Famy/Infanta Intersecion (CALTEX), go down and ride one of the tricycles just beside the Caltex gas station. Just tell them you wish to go to "buruwisan falls" and they will take you to the jump-off point beside the wider river. The tricycle fee is 15pesos per head and they operate 24hrs a day too. Cross the river (there are stepping stones if you don't wish to get your feet wet), and walk along the path to the bamboo shed (you'll cross a tiny bridge). There is a house just in front of the shack, wake someone up and ask to be registered. Going back home: walk to the main road from the river and get a tricycle back to the Famy/Infanta Intersection (CALTEX). You can easily get a ride to Manila from there.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Laiya, San Juan, Batangas (LA LUZ LABAS)

First of all Laiya is pronounced as "la-i-ya", otherwise no one will understand where you want to go when you ask for directions along the way. The beach waters in Laiya are relatively clean. The sand however, is littered with horse and dog manure. Laiya is composed of a 5kilometer stretch of white sand beach with "Laiya coco grove resort" on one end and "La Luz resort" on the other end. Laiya coco grove extends to almost half of this 5kilometer beach area. The sand in the Coco Grove area is generally finer. The sand in the La Luz area is not actually sand but small pebbles(similar to the surface of that decent from the peak of Mount Fuji, Japan). Thus its a bit harder to walk on since your feet sink deep into these small pebbles. Its also harder on the knees so if you have old folks with you, I recommend that you accompany them when they walk around La Luz.
The good thing about La Luz is that the owner does not allow booming noises especially from Karaoke machines! Its just so peaceful and quiet there that one can actually get some sleep out in their array of cabanas.
It is just so frustrating when after spending so much time, money and effort going to the beach, you end up with annoying karaoke noise as if you never left manila at all.
What I didn't expect was this foul weather.

(gas up! its 300km back&forth!)

Its mid January and the sun is supposed to be shamelessly exposing itself but instead it hides in all these clouds and often releases little spouts of rain as if undecided on its moods. Laiya coco grove has an area of more than 100hectares and is divided into three main parts. The main resort, the picnic area, and the white beach.
A guest would have to pay about 2k per head to stay at most of these Laiya resorts - at least that was my impression until I actually went there. In fact, we were almost tricked into staying at the Laiya coco grove camp site for 650 per head (you bring your own tents and food pa) plus you CAN NOT use any other facility except whats on the Camp site - which is nothing --- not even one tree standing on the camp site so I'm sorry for the unlucky group who pays 650 per head to bake on the sand. There was something resembling a toilet but it looked like two caskets standing up. Of course, if your willing to spend about 15k then you can stay in one of their nice tree houses and use the pool at the main resort. What a scam.
(eat up! Delifrance serves
GREAT coffee and the best
cheese&garlic bread!)

During this time of year(mid Jan), the waters surrounding Laiya beaches are clear but littered with green seeweeds. The worst part is that their waters are totally devoid of marine life. You can swim until you see only blue waters and n'er encounter a single fish. The waters in front of La Luz is better because although the corals are all dead, I've seen a good number of good-sized fishes. Its a very far cry from the waters surrounding the mabini area (anilao) of course.

FORGET staying at these 12k to 18k houses of La Luz! I have absolutely no idea why people would want to stay in this over hyped, over priced place. They have bad parking space (inaccessible), a terrible beach front and you can't eat what you want.
We stayed beside La Luz (La Luz Labas).
(aircon room on stilts
PhP 2500 only! good for 6
park your car under it)

I think this is where the day-trip crowd gathers. It has a cooking area, eating area and an array of cabanas. Fresh fish comes in at 6am and you can select from the day's catch at around 60 to 80 pesos per kilo depending on the quality and size of the fish. Another batch of fresh fish arrives at 6pm in the evening. Just ask Aling Ely or her partner to get you something if your too lazy to wake up in the morning. Local folks occupy the cabanas when there are no guests. This area is called "La Luz Labas" and the I think its managed by the same clan. NO NOISE POLLUTION HERE EITHER. The caretaker, Aling Ely, owns a compound at the back of the resort and most of those hanging around the resort during off-peak season is a relative of theirs. They have 4 newly constructed aircon rooms and these are rented out at 2,500 per room (good for 6).
(beside it is a huge lavatory
**sorry that only the wall and part
of the roof is visible but believe you me... its HUGE
separate for men and women
6showers and toilets each)

No private T&B so you have to use the common facility which is both spacious and clean anyway. PLUS you get to use the cooking area and one of the cabanas for free! When these aircon rooms are full, one can rent a small hut inside the caretaker's compound. The price of these huts are from 1k to 1.5k per hut and its good for 10people if you don't mind sleeping next to each other. These small huts have toilets attached to them. When all rooms are taken, you can always rent one of the rooms of the caretaker or her numerous relatives - I'm sure they'll come up with something for a reasonable price. What is great with La Luz Labas is that you can actually bring your car up to the front of your room or rooms. The alternative is this steep road to La Luz parking area proper that looks dangerous especially when its wet and more so when you are not using a 4x4.
The roads going to San Juan, Batangas from Manila are reasonably well paved. For directions to go there, I quote from the Laiya coco grove home page ...

"From Metro Manila, go via the South Luzon Expressway (SLE) going towards Santo Tomas, Batangas. About 7 kms. after the end of the SLE approaching Santo Tomas, you will see to the right – a clearly marked is a green sign to Batangas. Turn right – this road is the Star Expressway, a 20-km. stretch ending in Lipa City. Be careful as the terminal right-hand curve suddenly becomes a two-way road. At the end of the Star tollgate at the National Highway, follow the sign – turn right towards Lipa City proper.

Approaching Lipa City, you will see in the distance, a McDonald’s at a "Y" junction – bear right to the main road through Lipa City. You will see the Lipa Cathedral dome in the distance to the right of the road. To the left of the road, you’ll see a Jollibee sign. Just before the sign, a cross junction, turn right on P. Torres Street.

Proceed on the National Road to Padre Garcia. At the Padre Garcia junction, bear right towards Rosario. If you miss it, you will enter Padre Garcia proper - - - retrace. In Rosario, at a cross junction, turn left on the main road, Gualberto Avenue. You are now going through Rosario – just keep on the main road and you’ll end up in San Juan, about 25 kms. Entering the municipality of San Juan is clearly marked. Proceed till you see the Municipal Park on your left and the Municipal Government Building on your right. At the very corner of the Municipal Building, turn right. You are on your last leg to Laiya, just keep on the main road – all hard surface – except for the last 1 km rough road"
(la luz labas beach front)

It supposedly "only takes 2.5 hrs at easy driving" from manila. Its actually closer to 3.5hrs normal driving to get to San Juan, Batangas.
Call Aling Ely, the care taker of La Luz Labas at +639994657130 for reservations.
(left: taken from top of la luz rock by Mr.Allan Barredo on NikonD50, all other images courtesy of Mr.FrancisAtendido on Panasonic Fz20)
More images here ..............


UPDATE ! askcoocoo has the most recent pictures of La Luz Labas to date. Please Visit her blog to view the images HERE

UPDATE ! I was just there yesterday and here are the updates.

(photo: long table with benches below the loft.)
ROAD CONDITIONS: The last leg to LAIYA which used to be rough roads is now almost fully cemented. HOWEVER, please be careful as some portions from ROSARIO are pocked with 1-way traffic. This is because some cemented portions have been left unfinished so only half the road is passable.

WEATHER: We have been having some weird (rainy) weather patterns this summer but it was generally sunny last weekend.

Aling Ely still has some units for rent overlooking the beach. These are bamboo lofts with tables and a sink underneath. about 12 people can fit on these lofts and they provide you with cushions and electric fans. Malamig na rin kasi malakas ang hangin from the beach. Please be reminded that summer time is PEAK SEASON and thus there are A LOT of people. Loud karaoke music generally stops at about 10pm but people don't stop making noise around you. Staying in these loft cottages means you can STILL USE THE BIG CR+SHOWER in LaLuz so taking baths and toilet trips are no problem. The big loft cottage goes for 3.5k per night.

(photo:view of the beach from the loft)

BEACH: Wala akong masabi! The MARINE LIFE HAS IMPROVED GREATLY. I saw a lot of coral growth and there are now so much marine life that its really a pleasure to go snorkling ALL DAY. We even went fish feeding. I've never seen such big parrot fish even in anilao. If there is anything worth going there for its this beautiful snorkling site sa LaLuz house reef. THE BEST!

MASSAGE: LaLuz has invested a considerable amount of money (400k daw?) training locals to perform massages. Right now, according to hearsay, they have about 50 masseurs servicing all of the various resorts. The fee is 250 for a whole body massage. I tried it and it was, in my opinion, one of the better massages I experienced in my life. Very very relaxing. You can have your massage done in one of the cabanas of course.

WARNING: You will problably park with aling Ely. Please note that there is a whopping 100peso / night parking fee. TOO HIGH in my opinion but then again, its peak season.

Thursday, January 11, 2007


(above: fireworks resembling a christmas tree,
taken by francis atendido Panasonic FZ-20 2007/01/06 - SM Mall of Asia Esplanade area )

Fireworks big enough to brighten the night sky never fails to cheer me up. Seeing them up close and feeling the repercussions from their explosions are of course an added plus and really improves the experience. I hoped to capture some of that experience when I went to see the Pyrolympics - but of course, images or "sight" alone is a pale comparison to experiencing this with sight, sound and touch (feel). Saturday, Jan. 6, 2007 saw USA and Spain competing. The USA display was pathetic but SPAIN really managed to draw a lot of wows from the audience. Spain was supposed to start their fireworks at 9pm but, being the teacher of our cursed maƱana habit, actually started at about 9:40pm.

(above: some of the various fireworks presented by SPAIN,
taken by francis atendido Panasonic FZ-20 2007/01/06 - SM Mall of Asia Esplanade area

Notice the backs of the crowd gawking up at
the fireworks display. I like a little prespective
so one can see how big these fireworks seem to
the spectators. Of course, real fireworks are
much bigger as they have to be seen from far away.

(below: Spain's grand finale,
taken by francis atendido Panasonic FZ-20 2007/01/06 - SM Mall of Asia Esplanade area